Category Archives: Family

Traditions

My dad
My dad

Growing up during the ’50s and ’60s my family was comfortable.  We lived in a suburb of NYC and my dad got on the bus or the train every morning at 7:20 and went to The City, to return home each night at 7:30, and as a CPA he did a lot of traveling over the winter months.

But on the weekends, we always had some of my dad’s extended Italian family gathering either at our house, or at cousins’ houses in Brooklyn.  I know my dad really valued his family, and I always knew it was the highlight of his week when he could cook up a big meal with one of his sisters or his younger brother on a Saturday night, and then after dinner he and the uncles would play cards and smoke.  All us kids would be off somewhere else, playing or doing puzzles (or hiding on the dark staircase outside the dining room and listening to the adults talk while we giggled).  Being an only child, I looked forward to these weekends as well.

Breaded veal cutlets
Breaded veal cutlets

And that is where I began to learn to cook.  From the aunts and my dad, I learned a lot and have continued to try and re-create many of the things we ate back then.  At the time, many of the ingredients had to be brought to the suburbs with whichever aunt or uncle was coming out our way, because there were not a lot of local stores in post-war suburban NJ that carried imported Italian products and really fresh meat and fish (if we had lived nearer to Hoboken or towns right on the Hudson, I am sure we would have had no problem, but the town I lived in was very WASP).

Marsala sauce
Marsala sauce

One of the traditions in our family was that whoever was having a birthday got to choose the dinner meal for that night.  To this day, I prefer staying home and cooking my own favorite birthday dinner of breaded veal cutlets with Marsala sauce, scalloped or oven roasted potatoes, and kale, rather than going out.  Having a February birthday always meant that kale was available, and it has been my favorite vegetable since I was a little kid.

Scalloped potatoes
Scalloped potatoes

My mom was a competent cook, but she never attempted most of the wonderful Italian meals we had on the weekends.  She did, however, learn to make breaded veal cutlets, and so even if my birthday was on a weekday, I still got my choice of birthday dinner.  And yesterday, it was exactly the same.  We had a lovely dinner here at home for my 63rd, and of course, it involved veal cutlets, potatoes and kale.

I do not want to get into the veal question here.  I have always been happy with ‘rose’ veal, and every summer I sock some in the freezer that is locally grown and very delicious.  As a kid, I knew nothing about the veal industry, and as an adult I am so very glad that we live in a place where there are many small farms raising happy, pasture-based beef critters.  And so I can continue to indulge in veal cutlets on my birthday.  (As a teenager I did a 6 year stint as a vegetarian after learning about the meat industry.  I do not remember what I had for those birthdays, but it was probably eggplant parm, my second favorite thing in the world!).

On the goat front, still no babies!  We are awaiting the Big Blizzard to roll in this afternoon.  Got the greenhouses cleaned off in readiness for the predicted 14-20 inches.  Mama mia, I love winter, but that much snow is just on or over the edge of crazy!

 

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Another great 4-day weekend!

New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure
New Tappan Zee bridge work going up alongside the old structure

It’s a good thing I retired last June.  If not, it would have been very difficult for me to get to Rhinebeck last weekend, and turn around on this past Friday morning and drive back down to north Jersey for our nephew’s wedding!

Our nephew and our younger son are in the same age bracket and were very close when they were little, until he and his mom moved a little farther away.  But his mom, who is divorced from my husband’s brother, has stayed very tight with the Ruit family, as well as with us.  We love Stevie and adore his bride, and even though we knew it was going to be an expensive weekend, we had to go.  Our son and his fiancee could not afford the trip, so we grabbed our grandson and took him along.  These events are so important to a family, and at the age of 7, I knew it would make an impression on him.

My husband did all of the driving down there, and it was brutal with the rain and the traffic.  But we had a chance to spend some time with my 92 year old father in law a few times over the weekend, so that was definitely a bonus.  The wedding was amazing, at the Skylands Manor in the state park and botanical gardens in Ringwood, New Jersey.  We had an enormously wonderful time.

The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d'oeuvres time)
The beautiful bride and groom looking down into one of the large downstairs rooms (hors d’oeuvres time)

Our grandson, however, was not initially impressed!  It was boring, it was this, and it was that.  But once the dancing started, we got him out on the dance floor and he never looked back!  He danced with all the bridesmaids, and the bride and the groom.  We had to drag him off the dance floor at the end of the night, because he was still showing everyone his “moves.”   No, he is not shy!

And so another chapter in our extended family is in the books.  It was a lovely weekend, and we even had a chance to visit with another old friend as well.  The trip home today was a little smoother than the trip down, so it’s all good.

And now back to dentist appointments and catching up with what has been going on with the goatie breeding group.  And getting ready for the cold weather.

August endings

Rest time
Rest time

This month feels like it has just flown by.  Busy days, and for the most part, beautiful ones.  We have had our share of the hot-and-humids, however, and I think this may have been part of the catalyst for the Coccidiosis outbreak in two of the baby goats.

I am always on the watch for things like this, but we have not had any cocci episodes here since we had lambs, a few years ago now.  It also usually hits us when we are having a very wet spring and summer.  As we are in a pretty extreme drought, it kind of surprised me.

But the really humid and hot weather is very stressful on the goats, particularly the young ones.  Our Fergus was the first to turn into Mr. PoopyPants, and then within a day or two the white buckling started.  We got the sulpha powder mixed up and going pretty quickly, but it’s a rough ride, even when the diarrhea stops within a day.   Sulpha drugs are hard on anyone, and when you are only 20 or 25 lbs., it’s not so nice.  We are doing vitamins as well, and they seem to be responding.

The last load. Not even a big one!
The last load. Not even a big one!

And as it is August, it is haytime.  We have a very lovely hay dealer who keeps our hay and we can go and get it when we need it, but that is for the first cutting bales.  A good friend of ours recently decided to cut his really nice hay field for a second cutting.  His neighbor does a first cut, but for some reason isn’t interested in doing a second.  I was definitely interested, and today was the day we had to pick it up in the field.  It was great to see Matt, and he even played farm boy for the day and helped us transport the goods.  Nice to see our second greenhouse having such a nice collection of bales going into the winter.

The crickets seem to agree.  I love going to sleep by their singing.  Reminds me of childhood vacations on Cape Cod with my cousins!

 

The Deal

What I want to be taking time out for int he mornings!
What I want to be taking time out for in the mornings!

I have had plans in the works for a number of years.  The deal with my husband is that I would retire when I turn 62.  That happens to be this February 11th, and  I really can’t believe that it is real.  Where did the time go?  It has just snuck up on me.  (Of course, I would not retire until June, at the end of the school year).

When I read Jackie’s blog post on Butting Heads Farm – the Art of Aging, Part 1  about aging and what can be accomplished home on the farm while working a full-time job,  I realized that we have been maneuvering ourselves toward this goal for a good number of years (I have had to let go of our sheep, our yearly meat chickens, and our yearly feeder pigs in order to keep things sane).  I have only told a few coworkers and close friends so far, but it’s finally here for me.  I am retiring at the end of this school year (!), and I am hoping to be able to totally give myself over to the farm and to weaving, spinning, knitting and felting from then on.  The money issue will be difficult for awhile, but hopefully I won’t have to go out and get a whole other full-time job.  I feel bad for all my coworkers who retire and a year or two later have to go back to work full-time, but most of those folks are single.  I am blessed to have a partner who has a few sources of income, and with my NJ pension, my Maine pension, and a little bit of Social Security, I might be okay.  (Although Maine is one of the two states in the U.S. who believes that getting SS and a teacher’s pension is “double dipping,” so the SS that I paid into in NJ is going to be drastically cut back when I start collecting because of my Maine teacher pension.  It’s a real bummer).

And so it goes.  I am frantically trying to make sure that things at work are going to be perfect for whoever replaces me, but we all know that that is a losing proposition.  It will be what it will be.  But I am having a wonderful time reading the seed catalogs and thinking that I can actually do a little more in the garden because I won’t be starting back into work by the middle of August, and unable to process the tomatoes and the eggplant that are just really coming ready at the end of August.

I can’t believe that I only have 80 some workdays left in my job as a Library Media Specialist.  It’s been a wonderful career, and it won’t be easy to give up.  But I do think that I will be having breakfast or lunch with my retired teacher peeps on the first day of the new school year.  And there will be champagne or wine involved!!!

Spring fever in December

Spring fever!
Spring fever!

I know that it’s even warmer down in the mid-Atlantic states, but 53F on December 12th is pretty unheard of around these parts!  No complaining from me, however, as I know Winter will catch up with us soon enough.  I am pleased for the skiers that it has been cold enough for the resorts to make snow, and they have also had a few precipitation events that brought snow to the mountains, leaving rain for the coast.  That’s the way I like it!  (Don’t get me wrong, I love snow.  Just not as much as we had last winter, with negative temperatures to match.  And even though I love it, I think I am still reeling from last year ).

Hose is still running
Hose is still running

We have been trying to make the most out of this weather, and did quite a bit of outside work yesterday.  My biggest pleasure of all:  the hose that comes out of a dug-well that we use to water the animals, is still running!  Usually by this time we are wrestling gerry cans of water into the tractor and driving them up.  What a treat!  We did get enough cold weather in the past two weeks that I had set up the tank heater in the big trough, and plugged in the 16 gallon heated buckets in the other two pens.  Yesterday I scrubbed all the tanks, all the feeders, and Sam got the inside of the greenhouse cleaned out, on the large girl’s group side.  Lots of stuff got checked off of our list!

What a sky
What a sky

It still feels like an early spring morning out there today.  It even smells earthy and fresh.  The girls are being very frisky and flying around the paddock like they are kids, too.  The big rock is covered in flecks of mud, there has been so much frolicking going on.

lit treeToday I must do some baking and present-putting together.  Sam got the lights on the tree, and that is where we have stalled out.  Gotta get going on that as the grandboy is anxiously awaiting Grampy’s train set around the bottom.  I think we have our work cut out for us! Hope everyone out there is enjoying their Sunday as well!

Mid-December already

Frosty morning
Frosty morning

It’s been quite a few weeks.  Getting ready for a winter that hasn’t really landed yet continues.  I am not complaining, however!  We don’t usually get this much grace time for winter prep in the animal paddocks.

Golden Guernsey update:  our girls Batty the Beautiful and Saffron the Lovely are doing well.  We bought them as bred does, and I was extremely upset when Saffron went into heat.  The little buck that my friend Jane and I went in on together is still in Vermont at Jane’s house.  He is quite young yet, and the news is that he is not yet mature enough to breed the girls.  Which left me in a terrible bind!  No Guernsey buck, and a pregnant doe.  Actually, all but Batty the Beautiful are open.  Sheesh.  What a pickle!  So I have put our only buck in with the girls, and so far, no action.  Saffron did knock the poor guy around, so I hope that he has the desire to hang in there :*)

Marigold the Sweet
Marigold the Sweet

Marigold update:  we did our best to get our Marigold up and moving, but things just didn’t work out.  She was our sweet girl and a doe that I had hoped to be on the farm for a very long time, but it just wasn’t a go.  John put her down on Sunday, so it was not a very great day, despite the beautiful weather.  Her mother, Big Zelda, had  begun sleeping far away from Marigold’s pen, so we knew that she had already acknowledged the fact that her girl was not well.  This was an extremely tough one for me.  We have lost animals and had to put some down in the past, but she was just 18 months old.  It never makes sense.

Naked tree
Naked tree
Menorah
Menorah

On a happier note, we got our Christmas tree, even as we are celebrating Hanukkah!  It’s a pretty one.  We have not been able to find anything suitable on our 20 acres (weener Charlie Brown evergreen abound, but nothing remotely nice), so we went to a local tree farm and got a 7′ lovely little number.  Our grandson was not impressed with our choices, but I am!  (The other day he asked me how old I am.  I told him I am 61.  He looked at me and asked, “Are you shrinking?  I think that someone your age ought to be a lot taller!”).  And there we have the viewpoint of the next generation :*)

And so it goes.  The holidays are upon us and I am doing my best to not get caught up in the stress of it all.  I am sure that we will get the tree decorated, and we will get the presents wrapped.  It’s coming,

Happy Holidays!

 

Post-Thanksgiving weekend

New girls
New girls

I hate to say that it is Saturday night already.  Holiday weekends just seem to fly by.  Wah, wah!  It’s been a nice one, and I don’t want it to end.

We had a quiet holiday.  Tuesday afternoon around 2 PM I began feeling like I was coming down with a cold, and I hurried to do the last of the Thanksgiving shopping and get home and just veg on the sofa.  I took my Emergen-C and rested for the evening.  I don’t think I got the whole brunt of the virus, but I definitely appreciated that we weren’t going to have a ton of company and that the meal was going to be a very simple one.

So we took our feast across the street to our elderly neighbor’s house and we had a lovely, very laid-back time.  Friday was a day for catching up, sleeping in a little bit, working around, and just enjoying being home.  This morning I took a ride to a friend’s pottery studio for her “Shop Small” Saturday.  Maple Lane Pottery is one of my favorite places, and Robbi didn’t disappoint us.  I was able to enjoy visiting with her as well as finding some lovely holiday gifts.  Robbi is a very talented potter, and her animal-themed pieces are some of my favorite kitchen pieces.

Robbi had another small farm business there, Ridge Pond Farm, and it was lovely to finally meet Cari Balbo, the owner and maker of all kinds of herbal treats.  Face creams, hand and body creams, herbal tea mixes, all were as beautiful and wonderfully-scented as I imagined.  I make my own very simple hand and body creams (because I am allergic to everything!), but these are amazing concoctions and I hope her face cream is my favorite thing for a long time to come.

Marigold. Alert, but no better.
Marigold. Alert, but no better.

And so it goes.  The weekend is almost over, and I am sorry to say that our Marigold is failing.  We are going to have to make the final decision on her within the day, not that I believe there is anything to decide.  She is not getting up, and is falling behind on where her recovery should be.  She isn’t suffering yet with something like pneumonia or bloat, which could be a problem since she is not mobile, and is eating but not recovering any of her backend movement.  So that is that.  Breaking my heart, but there it is.  The ugly end of livestock farming. I will keep giving her all her little treats until it’s time to put her down.  A big loss to the future of our little farm.

Happy Thanksgiving

From all of us here at Ruit Farm North.  I hope that everyone is having a peaceful and relaxing holiday with friends and family.  I am very thankful that both our sons are in the area for now, and that we can be spending a lot of time together.  And I am ever so thankful for all our friends, both human and 4-legged.

And thank you all for being a part of our farm family!

A forced vacation

Lucy, my sister in law's Jack Russell.  What a cutie!
Lucy, my sister in law’s Jack Russell. What a cutie!

Just as the school year was coming to a close, we got word that my mother in law was doing poorly again, in NJ.  Even though I still had two teacher days to go (the kids were out on Friday the 19th), we hastily threw stuff into a few bags, put Tesser the Chihuahua and her bed into the car, and took off on Saturday morning the 20th.

Needless to say, my sweet mother in law really was not doing well, and within a day she had been moved to a hospice room in a rehab center near my inlaw’s home.  Someone from the family was with her around the clock, and she struggled for too many days before giving in.  It was a very difficult time, and living away from home was difficult, although we were very comfortable with my sister in law and I certainly enjoyed having the time with her and our nephew and his fiancee.

Dot and flowers
Dot and flowers

And so the days went, and after she passed away there were a few days to wait for the wake and the funeral.  I had hoped to be able to come back to Maine and let our friend Roy have a bit of a break from the goat and pigeon care between Dot’s death and the funeral, but there wasn’t enough time.  So we stayed in North Jersey and as it turned out, there were a million things to do.  Being there allowed my sister in law to go back to work for a few days, and I was glad that we could be there to help out.  We live so far away, I am afraid that she gets the brunt of the care on a regular basis.

The family.
The family.

Even though it has been difficult losing someone that I have known and loved for 36 years, it is a fact that she had a good life.  I hope I can be as healthy at 90 as she was!  And of course, the other perk that we had was having some time with our family and old friends.  Sometimes it takes something out of our control to force situations like this.  And the thing that saved my sanity every day there was the midnight swim in my sister in law’s pool under a glass house.

And that was the beginning of my first weeks of vacation.  Let’s just hope that that is as exciting as this summer gets.

Happy New Year, 2015

Tesser the Chihuahua moves into the new year with a new little dog cave bed. Good stuff!
Tesser the Chihuahua moves into the new year with a new little dog cave bed. Good stuff!

It’s really here! Another year has come and gone. I am not one to go all New Year resolutions in January as I prefer to celebrate the “new year” in the autumn, at Rosh Hashanah. But thinking about a new beginning, as the year reaches its darkest point, has some merits as well. I relish the opportunity to hunker down in the house, (hopefully with a wood stove soon!), and get some serious knitting, spinning and reading done. To slow down and enjoy each day’s garnering of a few minutes more light.

I have not been able to find which of my favorite bloggers quoted Charles Spurgeon last year with his “Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…” line. But it’s how I would like to go into 2015, my 61st year (oh my!), and take as much time with friends and family as I can, as well as trying to get enough rest. And the topper would be making sure that I build enough time into my mornings to really whip my spinal arthritis and bursitis hips into movable shape! That takes more doing these days, and with all the chores and getting ready to get out the door by 6:15, I don’t always take the time. Hopefully I will be more mindful of that, so my days are more productive and full of the things I want and need to accomplish.

I think I need to take a leaf out of a good friend’s book: mindful focus. (Kris writes a wonderful blog, Losing Sleep, Counting Sheep . Take a look, it’s a great read). I think that mindful focus really sums things up quite nicely.

And so it goes! Happy 2015 to all of you.